The perfectly Pinteresting chicken recipe that you’re wrestling with in the kitchen may end up making your family sick. That is, if you don’t wash your hands properly. A recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), RTO International and Carolina State University found that a whopping 97 percent of the time most people don’t wash their hands while cooking.

Um, whoa. That’s a whole lot of bacteria-breeding, chicken and meat-covered hands touching the food that they (and their families) eat. Neglecting to wash your hands after handling potentially bacteria-filled foods can result in some serious stomach sicknesses, such as E. coli, salmonella and norovirus. Yuck!

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Participants in the study either watched a three-minute USDA food safety video on using a food thermometer to cook for to the proper internal temperature or didn’t watch the video. They then had to prepare a meal in the researchers’ test kitchen. Both groups (the video watchers and non-watchers) prepped and cooked turkey burgers and chef salads. The burgers were laced with a harmless tracer—to test for potential contamination due to improper food handling and cooking.

So what did the researchers find? As it turns out the food thermometer video did its job. The participants who watched it were more likely to check their turkey burgers’ internal temps and cook them completely. Even though the video watchers get a big ol’ thumbs up for using meat thermometers correctly, they didn’t fare as well with proper handwashing (which the video did not address).

Of the 1,054 times when handwashing could have decreased cross-contamination during the experiment’s cooking processes, only 33 percent of the video watchers and 31 percent of the non-video watchers actually washed their hands. And when the participants did wash their hands, only a few did so adequately. Not only is this an “eww” outcomes, but 48 percent of the video watching group contaminated salt and pepper shakers and 5 percent contaminated lettuce during the cooking process.

And what’s the take-home here? Overall, a combined total of 2.8 percent of the participants actually washed their hands correctly. The next time you make breakfast, lunch or dinner, check yourself and make sure that you’re getting soapy, sudsy and all kinds of clean.

—Erica Loop

Featured Photo: jackmac34 via Pixabay

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